THE BLOG
10/19/2012 11:30 am ET Updated Dec 19, 2012

Hope Dies Last: Why Hope Matters for Strategy

Hope may not be a strategy. Nonetheless, hope is a necessary but not sufficient condition for surviving tough times and achieving great things.

Hope may not make something so. But, a lack of hope makes accomplishing anything virtually impossible. Hope is the fuel of strivers and doers. If hope disappears, progress ends.

Hope is essential. It is what keeps us going against what appear to be overwhelming odds and adversity.

The late Studs Terkel, America's greatest oral historian, understood this when he named his last book, Hope Dies Last. Ed Vulliamy makes this point in his review of the book for The Observer in 2004 when Terkel's book came out by noting, "Hope has never trickled down, writes Terkel. It has always 'sprung up' - and he gets his title from Jessie de la Cruz, a founder member of the farmers union, who insisted, 'If you lose hope, you lose everything.'"

America is a nation founded on hope. Think about the rag tag bunch of patriots who decided to take on a seemingly unbeatable British Army in red coats with only their wits, wills, and muskets. It was this singular act of hope that allowed the Founding Fathers to proclaim in our Declaration of Independence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

America is the land of hope. Think about the millions of immigrants who have been drawn to our shores because of the country's pledge and the promise made to them by the inscription on the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

America is in the business of hope. Think about the millions of entrepreneurs who started and succeeded in their own enterprises. We are among them and we know this could only have been possible in a country such as ours.

America is dedicated to perfecting hope. Think about the civil rights movement: Rosa Parks not giving up her seat on that bus, those kids who integrated that high school in Little Rock, Ark., and the demonstrators like Congressman John Lewis who marched and were assaulted in Selma, Ala.

America is committed to innovating hope. Think about the polio vaccine, putting a man on the moon, the Internet, the vaccines for the AIDS virus, and communications satellites.

America is the world's best hope. Think about World Wars I and II; Ronald Reagan saying "Tear down this wall"; the government's countless humanitarian initiatives, the endless generosity of the American people in response to natural disasters, and George W. Bush's AIDS assistance to the African nations.

To sum it up, we have just described elements of the American dream. Hope is the stuff of that dream and realizable aspirations. Hope is central to the concept which makes America exceptional but does not completely define the essence of American exceptionalism.

We understand that hope is not a strategy -- as Rick Page advised us in his 2004 marketing and sales bestseller with that title. As business people, we know that you need a plan and proper execution for success. But, as business people, we also know that you need passion and persistence because there is no guarantee of an initial or easy victory. One only need look at Steve Jobs' track record to recognize that.

Here is the simple truth: A strategy by itself is just about as meaningless -- we think even more so -- as hope. While they don't teach hope in business school, perhaps they should. That's because hope is the emotional glue that holds us together both individually and collectively during stressful periods.

Even though the American economy is recovering -- albeit slowly -- these are still stressful and trying times. We need to move from that begrudging process of recovery to renewal in the belief in America and the American dream.

How important is hope to that renewal? Here's what Ronald Reagan had to say:

"I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing. So, with all the creative energy at our command let us begin an era of national renewal. Let us renew our determination, our courage, and our strength. And let us renew our faith and our hope."

We have spent the past two years impaled in partisan political conflict aimed at blocking problem solving, collaboration and compromise. This conflict has increased citizen cynicism and skepticism and reduced hope.

Now, more than ever, we need to emphasize rather than ignore hope. We say that as life-long Cubs fans who know that hope springs eternal. We also know unequivocally that hope dies last. Strategies die first.

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